When have No. 1
and No. 2 been so close for so long in any sport as Martina and I were? We have
an incredible bond. I trust her more than any other player, and she's the most
compassionate, giving person I know. After my losses she always calls—overseas,
if we're in the same hotel, whatever. She searches me out. She calls when I
have a big win, too—or if I have to play Steffi the next day.
Believe me, I've
been critical of Martina. For a while—when Nancy Lieberman was Martina's
trainer and plotting her Kill Chris strategy back in the early '80s—we didn't
get along, but we got through that. Then there was my loss to her in the 1988
Wimbledon finals. To this day I think I got a bad call on match point. The
linesman didn't call my shot out until Martina glared at him. I know it; I'll
always believe it. I was mad at her for a couple of weeks. Then I told myself,
Hey, it isn't worth ruining the friendship, and we were back together.
Martina bought 125
acres in Aspen a while ago—she's going to build a castle and move there
permanently—and we usually find ourselves in town together about four times a
year. We have dinner and go skiing. That is, we start out skiing together.
Martina goes 50 miles an hour faster than I do, and we meet later for lunch.
She's such a jock, sometimes it's laughable. Martina has always been better at
everything than me.
taught me how to fly-fish, and I actually caught four big trout. Martina tried
and tried, but she couldn't catch a thing. It killed her. One night she asked
Andy how I could possibly catch any fish when she was so much better at it but
couldn't catch a thing. It turned out Martina was holding the bait just above
the water, thinking "fly" meant the fish literally flew out of the
water to get the bait. My loving husband suggested the next time Martina try
resting the fly on the water.
Maybe the fact
that I didn't miss playing the French Open on my beloved clay—the surface on
which I had my greatest achievement, 125 straight victories from 1973 through
1979—is the strongest single indication that I'm ready for a new life. I will
miss doing something well, being totally focused and putting all my faculties
and emotions on the line. It's a nice feeling when everything is flowing. You
feel so comfortable.
The players, the
camaraderie, the locker room? No, I won't miss that. I've been with three
different generations on the women's tour. When I arrived on the scene, there
were Margaret, Billie Jean and Rosie [Casals]. Then came Martina's and Pam's
generation. Now it's the younger girls. I don't have a whole lot in common with
them. I had the most fun when Billie Jean, Rosie, Virginia [Wade] and Wendy
[Turnbull] were playing. They were fun and stimulating and intelligent. They
were my mentors. I respected them.
Now, with my
personality, it's hard for me to go up and make the first move with these kids.
Introduce them to the WITA [Women's International Tennis Association]? Give
them coaching? They don't need me. They've got five people around them, all
their entourages. In the early days you didn't have that. I was taken under the
wing of the older players. Now it's big business, which has taken away the
spontaneity and fun. The younger girls are in and out of the locker rooms so
fast. They don't want to socialize anyway.
The women used to
play at country clubs in front of 1,500 to 2,000 people. The crowds were more
intimate. Now we go to arenas that seat 10,000. It's colder, stiffer. It's show
biz. In the old days there wasn't the money, the pressure, the exposure. The
Family Circle Cup at Hilton Head is about the only tournament left that's
exactly the way it used to be. The tour just isn't the same. You have to
generate your own fun.
There also are
many more European players on the circuit today, and an alienation exists
between them and the Americans. The Europeans resent us because they feel the
WITA wants to keep all the tournaments in the U.S. I get flak because I've been
president of the WITA for seven years, which has made life on the tour even
I've always wanted
more tournaments in Europe, because that's where the money and growth is. But
the Europeans don't seem to understand that we can't burn bridges with the
promoters in the U.S., when a few years ago Europe was telling us to drop dead.
Steffi and her father are rumored to be at the forefront of this movement. It's
harder for the Europeans to understand why we would want to be loyal to the
U.S. tournaments when the European market is offering such big bucks. But there
must be a compromise somewhere. We've got a European office now, and we're
adding a couple of European tournaments each year to those that already exist.
As with any other sport, expansion can't be an overnight thing.